Saturday

19th Aug 2017

EU leaders forced to unite in new Trump reality

EU leaders pledged the need for unity and for Europe to stand on its own two feet at their meeting in Valletta on Friday (3 February), during a discussion on how to handle US president Donald Trump, whom EU council chief Donald Tusk described earlier this week as a "threat" to the EU.

Leaders emphasised the importance of the transatlantic relationship, and said they would work together with Trump on common interests, but move toward more independent European action on issues where the EU and the US administration disagree.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"We work on the basis of our shared values, [...] there are areas where we agree, like fighting international terrorism, and where we don’t agree," German chancellor Angela Merkel said after lunch, which summed up the mood toward Trump among EU leaders after a turbulent week of heavy criticism from Europe and concern over the US president's first days in office.

But Merkel said that this is an opportunity for Europe to redefine itself and become more self-reliant.

"The general debate concentrated on where we stand, we have to act together," Merkel said, adding that it could lead to boosting investment in defence capabilities in the EU but also in Germany. "We have our destiny in our own hands."

Some EU leaders heavily criticised Donald Trump's decision to ban refugees and people arriving to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Others, like Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, slammed those who criticised Trump. Before arriving at the Valletta summit, Orban said that the US has the right to decide its own border control policy, and that he is puzzled at the "neurotic European reactions" over the travel ban.

May's briefing

But behind closed doors over lunch the leaders were united, sources said.

They listened to the briefing of UK prime minister Theresa May, who has already met Trump, Merkel and French president Francois Hollande, who had phone conversations with the new US president to figure out where he stands.

According to a source, May told her fellow European leaders that she made it clear in Washington that a strong EU, a strong Europe, was good for the US.

May said Trump assured her that he was 100 percent behind Nato, the transatlantic military alliance he publicly called "obsolete".

It also dawned around the table that Trump approaches policy through funding, and while he is committed to Nato, financial contributions to the military alliance and to the United Nations could come under question in Washington.

May cautioned EU leaders, and urged them to engage constructively, as division in transatlantic relations would only embolden those who want to harm Europe.

On whether the UK can act as a bridge between the US and the EU, Tusk said that despite Britain leaving the EU, there was a spirit of solidarity among the 28 member states on Friday.

"[There was] this good and strong will to protect our unique relationship with US, the translatlantic guarantee for freedom and international order," he added.

Tusk Tower

Leaders however did not get a good sense on where Trump stands on Russia, according to another source.

"Obviously there was concern among EU leaders by some decision taken and some attitudes adopted by the US administration," Joseph Muscat, Malta's prime minister whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said at a press conference on Friday.

He added that there was no anti-American sentiment around the table of EU leaders.

However, there was a determination not to stay silent "when principles are trampled on," he said.

EU council chief Donald Tusk earlier this week in an extraordinary letter to EU leaders called Trump one of the threats facing Europe today.

While the discussion on Trump was more pragmatic than Tusk's emotional letter, the former Polish prime minister received backing from EU leaders.

"They [leaders] called me 'our Donald'," he said, referring to the US president. Muscat even joked that the new EU council building in Brussels should be renamed Tusk Tower, to replicate the Trump Tower in New York.

EU leaders to discuss migration, in Trump's shadow

New US president Trump overshadows the Malta summit of EU leaders on Friday, as they discuss the bloc's future amid new geopolitical realities, and step up efforts to stop migration via Libya from North African countries.

EU leaders must stand up to Trump, say MEPs

MEPs have urged the EU to stand up for European values, starting with rejecting Trump's presumed choice for US ambassador, who has stated that he wants to "tame" the bloc.

Opinion

The need for global cooperation in stopping Iran

Although Trump said he would tear up the Iran Nuclear Agreement, the new administration seems to want to work on a new policy toward Iran. Let's hope European leaders will respond in kind to this approach.

Interview

Sikorski: Let's give Trump time to be 'educated'

Former Polish foreign minister said he hoped new US president will learn how the world works and that EU leaders have "enough statesmanship" to steer Europe out of trouble.

Opinion

Setting course for strong and focused EU

From strengthening the internal market to completing the energy union, the prime ministers of Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland set out their vision for the EU.

News in Brief

  1. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  2. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  3. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  4. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  5. Russian power most feared in Europe
  6. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  7. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  8. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides